I awoke to the heavy feel of damp air in my lungs. The steady rocking of the ship to which I had fallen asleep to was replaced with loud creaking and thrashing sounds. I pulled myself out of the cot in my small cabin and was instantly thrown into the wall with unrelenting force. I hit my head pretty hard, putting my hand up to my left ear I felt a warm fluid against my fingers. I brought my hand in front of my eyes to see blood. The ship was still being thrashed around, we must have come into contact with a storm.
I had to get out of this room to help the crew and passengers, and I needed to find my Father. I pulled the door open and fell into the hallway which was already filled with a few inches of water. I grabbed a hold to anything I could grasp onto keep myself upright enough to get towards the stairs to the deck. There was a little waterfall streaming down the stairs from the opening above. I pulled myself up on deck to a sight that had me truly terrified. I held onto the railing of the stairs with all the strength I had. The waves around us must have been nearly 20 feet high, the rain was pouring down in buckets and men were flying all over the ship just trying to hang on for dear life.
I had been on the sea many times before, and had seen my fair share of storms, but this was by far the biggest I had ever experienced. There was no way that we could make it out of this alive.
I started to hear something from my left, someone was screaming but the crashing of the waves was so loud that I couldn’t make out what they were saying. I looked as hard as I could through the rain and saw that it was my father calling to me.
I started to call out to him, “Father! Father!”, but it was useless. He couldn’t hear me, and I couldn’t hear him. This was the end, we would both die here today. All I could do was pray to God that I would soon be reunited with my Father and the Mother I never knew in the afterlife.
“Cora! Coraline, are you home girl?”
I was woken from my afternoon nap with a start. Father was calling after me, he sounded more excited than usual. I straightened my back and sat up on the couch that I had been dozing on. I stretched my arms up to the sky and heard a “thunk” as the book I had been reading fell to the floor.
“Cora?”, I heard my father call up again.
I cleared my throat and called towards the door, “I’ll be down shortly Father.”
I picked up the fallen book and straightened out my skirts before I headed into my Father’s study down the hall. The door was open, I knocked on the banister lightly as I walked in, letting him know of my presence. He was pacing back and forth closely reading a document in his hands. I could tell he was excited, he only ever acted this way when something good had happened.
He caught a glance at me and stopped in his tracks, a smile lit up his face, “Cora, I have the most wonderful news!”
He motioned for me to take a seat in one of the chairs in front of his large oak desk. I took a seat while he went to stand behind the desk, already filled with stacks of papers.
I was getting anxious and wanted to know what he was so happy about, “What is your news father?”
He handed me the paper in his hands, “I have acquired us land in Barbados, we sail in a fortnight.”
The paper he handed me was a small map of the islands in the Caribbean. I had heard stories of the years my Father had spent in the Royal Navy in Port Royal. I was born there, my mother was killed in a large earthquake that sunk the entire city. Father brought me to England and raised me by himself. My father was given a Royal Pardon from the Navy and he started working as a sea Captain for hire. Men would hire him for private voyages, mainly from London to Egypt. He was well known for his sailing skills, Captain Oliver Phineas Ashton
I was lucky enough to join him on a few of these journeys. I loved being on the ocean, I was always drawn towards the sea. My Father was the same, the sea was his home. That was why he named me Coraline, meaning the coral from the sea. All my life my father had told be stories of Jamaica and his life there. He said the seas were magical, as if it was its own powerful force, a living thing. I knew he had a life with my Mother there, but he never told me anything about her. I didn’t even know her name or what she looked like.
“Cora, isn’t this great? I finally get to return! I can’t wait for you to see the islands, its nothing like the foreign lands you have seen before.”, my Father’s icy crystal blue eyes were glowing with joy.
I couldn’t help but return his enthusiasm with a large grin on my face. But it was genuine, I was instantly dreaming of the islands, I had been born there after all. It felt right.
“I am so happy too Father!”, I stood up and went around the desk to him.
He took my hands and looked into my eyes, finally showing a little bit of concern for the situation, “Coraline, I know this is going to be a big change. It will be like nothing you have ever seen before. You have seen African slaves before, but here we will be outnumbered by them. The slave trade has boomed over there. And we will have to own slaves to run our plantation. Do you understand?”
Fear started to cloud over mind. I had always hated the thought of slavery, treating human beings like cattle. My Father was extremely against it too, he seemed to really have a soft spot in his heart for the situation. I knew he must had encountered a lot of African slaves in Jamaica while he was there. My Father always had a kind and accepting heart, a trait I knew he had passed down to me.
I gasped and replied, “B-but w-w-we can’t own slaves Father! That is just barbaric! How could you event think of such a life as owning slaves?”, I squeezed his hands tighter, “Owning human beings Father!”
He took a deep breath and began to explain, “I know. That is why we are going to be different from all the other masters out there. We will pay our workers and treat them fairly. We will help them build lives of their own for the families. But we have to be careful, Cora. No one can know what we are doing to help them, we could be severely punished, do you understand?”
My eyes started to tear up. I was so proud of my Father, he was such a brave man. I put my head on his chest and he pulled me in for a hug. His love for me was another selfless act on his part. My Father always loved me and accepted me for who I was. He never pressured me to get married or try to sell me off to the highest bidder. Many men had come to him asking for my hand, he always let me make my own decisions for the course of my life.
I had declined every marriage proposal that I had received so far. None of the men wanted me for me, none of them even knew me at all. All they wanted was my unique beauty, or that’s what my governess called it anyways. I looked different than most women, but I don’t know if I would call it beauty.
My skin was a white pale color with a hint of pink, a shade that I had never seen on any other human before. My eyes were the same as my father, ice crystal blue. My face and my hair were the most different features, none that I could compare to anyone I had encountered before. My face was set wide, with an angular jaw and a wide flat nose. My skin was clear and smooth, but my lips were a dark brown color, creating a big contrast with my pale pink skin. My hair was a white blonde, like my fathers, but had a texture all of its own. My thick hair and tight ringlets were a disaster to tame and took hours to properly prepare. My body was more rounded out than most women my age, I didn’t carry any extra weight, but I had naturally rounded hips that my governess said was a husband-catcher.
I was lucky that my father was so understanding with my decision to stay single. He always encouraged me to wait to love, he said that’s what he had with my mother. Their time was short, and he never accepted any other women into his life. He was my best friend and I knew that as long as we had each other that we would be okay.